The heart-wrenching shot of Rebecca rolling up in her car to the destroyed Pearson house is forever singed into every fan's memory — but one clue could mean that Jack doesn't die in the fire on This Is Us, after all. Rebecca had a bag of what seemed to be Jack's belongings in tow — his wedding ring, a notebook, and what looks to be his watch and keys, all in notably good condition.
Not to get too graphic, but one would imagine that if Jack perished in the fire, all of these things would be at best covered in soot and at worst completely destroyed, especially the notebook. Sure, there is a possibility that Jack was killed in the burning house but not in the actual fire — I'm thinking smoke inhalation or perhaps a collapsing piece of the structure — but I'd like to believe there's some small chance that he was spared such a horrifying fate.
Some have speculated that Jack was injured in the fire but didn't immediately die. Perhaps he was simply taken to the hospital, where they may have given Rebecca his belongings to hold onto while he underwent surgery or some kind of treatment.
One Reddit user charliebean3 suggested that Jack may have had a relatively good prognosis following the fire, only for unexpected complications to take his life at a later date. That would also give us an explanation for why Kevin is in a cast on what appears to be the night of the fire, but does not have the cast on when the family is at Jack's funeral — a somewhat significant amount of time had to have passed between the fire and the funeral, for whatever reason.
This Is Us showrunners are already pros at toying with their audiences' emotions, but if Jack ends up in the hospital, seemingly stable, only to be torn away from his family after a time of relative hope, that'd be a whole new level of painful. (I still haven't forgiven Shonda Rhimes for pulling that trick with Mark Sloan, and I won't endure it again.)
Milo Ventimiglia himself continues to stop short of confirming Jack died in the fire. Whether that's just good cast secret-keeping or because there's another twist coming remains to be seen.
"It would be bad-form storytelling on our end if we were to just give it away right at the beginning," Ventimiglia told Vulture. "[Creator] Dan Fogelman’s plan is parceling things out so you’re satisfied in knowing, hey, maybe this burned-down home has something to do with Jack’s death because his wife is grieving and his kids are crying and everybody’s really emotional and Jack’s not there. So beyond that, it’s to be uncovered in the season."
Call me crazy, but saying the fire has "something to do with Jack's death" and not just committing to the fire storyline, especially after it's been revealed to audiences, seems like a pretty deliberate move. When asked by Vulture if he'd filmed Jack's actual death scene yet, Ventimiglia would only say "yes and no," and didn't elaborate further. This leads me to believe it may not be a single death scene, and that adds to the possibility that the fire puts him in the hospital but doesn't necessarily kill him that night. Honestly, with the way the show's played with the timelines so far, the scene with Kate and Randall crying at Miguel's house could've taken place weeks after the actual fire, for all we know. Though it must be a strange feeling, Ventimiglia seems sympathetic to the fact that thousands of people are aching to see his onscreen death.
"We have a savvy television audience nowadays, and I know it’s not a gross fascination where people just want to see a man die," he said in the same interview with Vulture. "They have an itch to scratch, and they want to know what happened to this man and how that moment in time can change and affect the people he loves the most and that love him the most."
We as fans know that Jack's dead, and we know Fogelman's said that he's not messing with us — the destroyed house isn't a red herring, and Jack doesn't die years later. But that's all audiences truly can count on at this point until the showrunners decide to let us in on the rest of the heartbreaking secret.